winter weather

Don’t Let Those Winter Weather Watches and Warnings Confuse You!

The first portion of winter is behind us! Unfortunately for those who long for spring to return, we have 2 more months of winter left, and that means that there’s plenty of time left to get lots of wintry weather in.

It’s essential to stay on top of the forecasts during the winter months, especially if snowfall or other wintry precipitation is expected. Of course, it’s easy to get lost in all the different watches, warnings, and other lingo that forecasters use.

If you’re not sure what a winter storm watch consists of or don’t know the difference between freezing rain and sleet, read up on the following winter weather terms to keep you and your family safe this winter:

    Precipitation Terms

Freezing Rain – This is rain that turns into ice as soon as it hits the ground.

Sleet – Often confused with freezing rain, sleet is rain that freezes into ice pellets as it’s falling. That means that it turns into ice BEFORE it hits the ground.

Snow Flurries – Flurries indicates light snow that is falling for short durations of time. There is little to no accumulation with snow flurries.

Snow Showers – If you’re expecting snow showers, you can look forward to snow falling in varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible with snow showers.

Blowing Snow – Blowing snow constitutes of wind-driven snow that works to reduce visibility. This can include both falling snow or snow that’s already on the ground and is being picked up by the wind. Travel is typically dangerous when blowing snow is predicted.

    Watches and Warnings

Frost/Freeze Warning – When you hear this on the forecast, that means that subzero temperatures are predicted.

Winter Storm Watch – A winter storm watch constitutes of a storm with heavy snow and/or significant ice that is possible within a day or two.

Winter Storm Warning – A winter storm warning means that heavy snow and/or significant ice accumulations are impending or already occurring.

Blizzard Warning – Blizzards are storms that have snow and strong winds of 35 mph or more, which reduces visibility to near zero. They also have deep snow drifts and last for more than 3 hours. If you receive a blizzard warning, it’s smart to stay safe indoors.

Wind Chill – The wind chill is how cold the wind and air feel on your exposed skin. It is not the actual temperature reading but how cold the wind is making the temperature feel.

Wind Chill Advisory – This advisory indicates that the wind chill readings are potentially dangerous with prolonged exposure.

Wind Chill Warning – This warning means that the wind chill readings are expected to be life-threatening within minutes of exposure. It’s best to seek shelter and wait until the warning is lifted, at least.

Knowing the terminology during this cold season will help you understand what is happening and what is predicted to happen outside. It could be the difference between enjoying a snowball fight with friends or getting stranded and put in a dangerous situation in a snowstorm. Be sure to keep this list close to you the next time wintry precipitation of any sort comes your way next! Better yet, be sure to share this blog post with your friends and family on social media so they can stay safe, too!